My thoughts on the election

Well wasn’t that interesting?  Greater minds that mine will draw conclusions from why the Lib Dems had such a terrible election night but here are some of my initial thoughts:

  1. Many probable Lib Dem voters in Scotland felt that we had committed the cardinal sin of going into coalition with the Tories and genuinely believed we had betrayed their trust on issues like tuition fees.  While 75% of the Lib Dem manifesto has become government policy you wouldn’t know it from the media coverage.
  2. Regardless of the election result I still feel going into coalition in Westminster was the right decision for the country and the Lib Dems in the long term even though in the short term it has damaged the party.  If we hadn’t gone into coalition then a minority Tory government would have called another election after six months.  Considering the Tories are the only party who would have had any money in their campaign coffers I am left in no doubt that they would have returned with a majority.
  3. The SNP ran a strong, professional campaign and showed that success is 80% execution and 20% strategy.  They ran it as a presidential campaign to make the most of Iain Gray’s weakness and thereby not have to talk about their broken promises as a government.
  4. Labour were complacent and assumed that a large percentage of Lib Dem voters who were unhappy would automatically come across to them.  They underestimated the fact that the majority of Scots rightly blame the financial mess we are in today on Labour’s imprudent management of the economy.  Their negative campaigning style didn’t resonate with the voters who were looking for some vision in these bleak economic times.  Finally their once legendary campaigning machine that in previous elections was so good at getting out their vote is a shadow of its former self and has been eclipsed by the SNP’s.
  5. None of the parties in Scotland had the cahoonas to put forward the kind of bold policies required to make Scotland more globally competitive and prosperous.  They played it safe and appealed to voters with election sweeteners, which usually had the word ‘free’ at the start of them.
  6. Our policies didn’t have the distinctiveness required to punch through the SNP/Labour media narrative.  Instead we thought we would get attention by focusing laser-like on a single policy (single police force).
  7. As I am not a particularly tribal person I never understood why as a party we picked fights with the SNP on areas of policy where we are closer than we make out.  I believe we should have supported minimum pricing on alcohol and I have a feeling the majority of Lib Dem members would agree with me.  In my view, and I may be wrong, the decision was taken to pick a fight with the SNP for purely cosmetic reasons and I think that is disappointing.  In relation to an independence referendum I realise that my view is a minority one in the party (although it is shared by Caron) but I’ve always felt relatively relaxed about the idea of a referendum.  I would campaign against independence because I genuinely believe an independent Scotland wouldn’t help in making the lives of the majority of Scots better.
  8. The Lib Dems need to go through the same journey of modernising its internal management, processes and campaigning machine that the SNP underwent during John Swinney’s leadership.  Yes, John wasn’t a great leader, but he put in the groundwork that has paid off for the SNP over two elections.
  9. Scotland has one of the most sophisticated electoral systems in the world yet all the political parties served up pretty unsophisticated, safe manifestos that are part of a wider cosy Holyrood consensus.  None of the parties seemed particularly willing to take on the institutional vested interests in this country whether that is in public services, quangos or local government.
  10. The Lib Dems are best when they campaign at the grassroots and actively listen and act on issues that are important to voters.  Before we make any rash decisions we need to listen and learn.  Tavish Scott had a pretty Herculean task at this election but the result also presents his successor with an opportunity.  Now is the time to actively listen, now is the time to make the bold changes, now is the time to build a party worthy of the voters of Scotland.

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